The NBA’s only instance of the same two teams meeting in the Finals in three straight seasons has happened with the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. But Steve Kerr doesn’t anticipate this going for much longer, if at all.
As Kerr’s Warriors are set to travel to Massachusetts on Thursday for a date with the surging Boston Celtics, the two-time NBA champion coach envisions the Dubs’ next opponent being the future Eastern Conference kingpins.
“It sure looks like Boston is the team of the future in the East, with the assets that they still have and their young talent and their coaching, and Kyrie [Irving] is amazing,” Kerr told ESPN Tuesday. “That looks like a team that is going to be at the top of the East for a long time to come. Whether their time is now or the future, that’s to be determined, but they sure look like they want it to be right now.”
The Cavs certainly have the claim to being the team to beat, their 7-7 record notwithstanding, in the East right now due to LeBron James’ status as a Cavalier. But with James’ contract up after the season and several members of that nucleus closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, it’s logical to start looking for the next East power.
Brad Stevens’ team has Irving signed for two more seasons and has No. 3 overall picks Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum playing well. While the Gordon Hayward injury could hurt the Celtics this season come playoff time, their nucleus could well be superior to the Cavs’ at this time next year.
“They’re really sound, and they’re motivated,” Kerr said. “It’s a team that’s been on the rise the last couple of years. They lost in the conference finals. They want to win a championship, and it looks like it. Even without Gordon Hayward and that awful injury, Boston is just crushing people. So, it’s going to be really fun to go against them on Thursday. We know how tough it’s going to be.”
Of course, the Milwaukee Bucks or Washington Wizards could have a say among the East’s long-term contenders as well. The Bucks recently acquired Eric Bledsoe to team with Giannis Antentokounmpo and Co., while the Wizards are only one season removed from taking the Celts to seven games in the playoffs. But the Celts have proven more than both to this point.
This retooled group’s biggest test will obviously come Thursday against the Warriors.